Matt Barnes was a full-time reliever in 2016 after pitching as both a starter and reliever in 2015 -- he admitted to problems going back and forth between the two roles. In the bullpen, Barnes was Boston's leader in innings (66.2 over 62 games) and showed improvement, dropping his HR/9 rate while striking out 9.6 batters per nine innings. While his 4.05 ERA doesn't scream effective relief, it was skewed by an awful month of August (10.13 ERA in 13 appearances). And he showed some moxie, bouncing back in September, posting a 1.29 ERA over his final 10 outings. Apart from the one bad month, Barnes was a trusted member of the bullpen. His power fastball can be a weapon, but he'll need to command it better (4.2 BB/9). Boston's bullpen has some moving pieces but Barnes will be back in 2017, pitching in a middle-relief role.
Barnes plans to throw his offspeed stuff more in 2017, something he experimented with during September and October last season, leading to promising results, Tim Britton of the Providence Journal reports. During the first five months of the 2016 season, Barnes threw his four-seamer nearly two-thirds of the time, but adjusted late in the season following a truly disastrous month of August (12 ER in 10.2 IP). He felt his stuff was still good, but the results weren't there. It was at that point he realized the problem was in how he used his stuff. Barnes mixed in more curves and sliders, throwing them as often as the four-seamer, and allowed just one run and no extra-base hits over his final 8.2 innings. While Joe Kelly's transition to the bullpen has garnered most of the headlines, Barnes may be positioned to take a step forward in 2017.
Barnes led Boston's bullpen with 62 appearances in 2016. He finished with a 4.05 ERA while striking out 71 and walking 31 in 66.2 innings. Barnes had one really bad month, skewing his overall numbers, but he was entrusted in high-leverage situations, inheriting 51 runners (ninth in MLB) and stranded 40 of them. He should remain in a middle-relief role with stretches of set up work in 2017.
Barnes allowed two hits and an inherited runner to score in two-thirds of an inning in Tuesday night's win over the Orioles. Barnes was dreadful in August when he allowed 12 runs in 10.2 innings and appeared to be pitching himself out of high-leverage situations as well as any discussion about the postseason makeup of the bullpen. But with the roster expansion, manager John Farrell has been able use him less frequently and get him some rest. While Tuesday's performance wasn't ideal, it was his eighth straight scoreless outing and the rest he's gotten this month puts him in a better position for October baseball.
Barnes allowed three inherited runners to score and was charged with five runs allowed without getting an out in Sunday night's 10-4 loss to the Royals. Barnes showed much promise over the first four months of the season, but his season has been undermined by a terrible August. e's allowed 12 runs on 12 hits and six walks in 9.2 innings this month. Once considered a possible eighth-inning option, Barnes appears lost. "I think I'm at the point now where I need to sit down and re-evaluate what I'm doing," Barnes told Tim Britton of the Providence Journal. "This is probably one of those portions of your career where you've been in the league long enough where teams have a lot of video and have seen you pitch. They're adjusting to you."
Barnes pitched 2.1 innings Tuesday in Baltimore after starter Eduardo Rodriguez exited early with a hamstring injury. He gave up two runs on one hit and one walk with two strikeouts, but came away with no decision when the rest of the Red Sox bullpen blew their 3-0 lead in the seventh inning. Barnes left two inherited runners on first and second when he departed with one out in the seventh, and Fernando Abad turned those into the two runs on his ledger by allowing both to cross home plate on a Matt Wieters single. The 26-year-old would've likely been in line for his fourth win after picking up right where Rodriguez left off.